Tuesday's groundbreaking for a new biomedical research center at the University of Utah marks the school's groundbreaking research in developing artificial body parts.

The five-story structure will be constructed just south of the Eccles Medical Library at the U.'s Health Sciences Center. Scheduled completion date is in 1994.U. officials credit Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, for the $19.9 million investment of federal funds into the research center.

The building will house researchers from the fields of medicine, pharmacy and engineering. The U. earned a national reputation as the world's artificial-heart capital, and officials hope the building will anchor that success while becoming a focus for future breakthroughs.

Biomedical polymers is a hot area of research nationally. Studies at the university include: artificial organs and vessels; computer-controlled chemical delivery of drugs; polymeric drugs; intraocular lenses and materials biocompatibility and studies of the human genome.

Among other projects, the U. has developed a new type of polymer material that may allow surgeons to replace veins and arteries with synthetic blood vessels. Other applications for medical polymers includes fallopian tubes, as well as urinary conduit and urinary storage devices.

Government officials think biopolymer development is important to preserve the nation's supply of strategic materials, as plastics can be used to replace cobalt, nickel, chromium and other scarce alloys in fabricating human implants. In addition, the government is investing in cutting-edge research projects in hopes of developing body components.